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Breast Cancer: Know how nutrition, lifestyle can impact risk of breast cancer

Women die most from breast cancer, whereas males die less. Nutrition and lifestyle are associated with more breast cancer risk factors. A good diet may minimise breast cancer incidence and progression/recurrence.  

Breast Cancer: Know how nutrition, lifestyle can impact risk of breast cancer RBA
First Published Jun 28, 2024, 2:38 PM IST

Breast cancer is the main cause of cancer mortality in women but is less prevalent in males. Evidence shows that a higher number of risk factors for breast cancer are related to diet and lifestyle (obesity, eating habits, and alcohol intake). As a result, healthy nutrition may lower the incidence of breast cancer and the risk of progression or recurrence.

It is time for you to re-evaluate your diet & lifestyle:

What is a healthy meal plate?

  • Fill your plate with approximately 50% (or more) vegetables, 25% (or more) protein, and up to 25% or a lesser amount of starchy vegetables or whole grains as your Dietitian prescribes.
  • 1 or 2 fruits daily as a snack or dessert 

• A plant-based diet containing dhals, sprouts, beans, unpolished grains, and millets is strongly advised.

Breast Cancer: Know how nutrition, lifestyle can impact risk of breast cancer RBA

Reach out for healthy fats:

• Consume healthy fats from cold-water fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, olive oil, avocados, rice bran oil, and nut or oilseed-based oils on a daily basis.

• Increase your fish intake to 2–3 times each week.

• Eat almonds, avocado, seafood, and oilseeds to include omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids in your diet.

• Limit and utilise omega 6-containing oils such as red meat, sunflower oil, and whole milk.

• Limit your consumption of highly saturated foods including red meat, organ meat, cheese, sausages/processed meat, butter, and ice cream.

• Limit your consumption of trans-fatty acid-containing foods, such as professionally produced baked products, packaged snacks, and hydrogenated fats like Vanaspati.

• Avoid using or heating oils frequently.

• Healthy fats may limit breast tumour growth, so don't avoid them.

Eat protein to avoid muscle loss, which is frequent in all forms of cancer.

  • Increase your poultry, fish, and vegetarian protein intake (legumes and lentils).
  • Include protein with every meal/snack

Breast Cancer: Know how nutrition, lifestyle can impact risk of breast cancer RBA

Add antioxidants, vitamins A, C, E, and selenium to your diet: Some have chemo-preventive characteristics that contain phytonutrients, antiestrogenic that prevent cancer-causing cells from proliferating further in the body, reduce oxidative stress, and inflammation, and change the epigenome, such as

  • · Carotenoids: dark yellow/orange/green vegetables and fruits 
  • · Lycopene: tomatoes, grapefruit, watermelon 
  • · Phenolic compounds, diallyl sulfides: garlic, green tea, onions, shallots, dark leafy veg
  • • Glucosinolates, isothiocyanates, sulforaphane, and indoles found in cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, mustard leaves, and sprouts.
  • • Curcumin: Use turmeric in your regular cooking.
  • Selenium-rich brazil nuts, shellfish, and foods high in vitamin C such as amla, kiwi, guava, and capsicum.

Remember these words of wisdom:

  • Include micro greens regularly harvested from your kitchen garden.
  • Avoid buying processed flours, sweeteners, and polished grains.
  • Factors that increase the risk of breast cancer: high intake of pickled/processed foods/ caffeine, regular consumption of smoked/charred/grilled foods, and cooking at high temperature (>300 degrees F).
  • Soy supplements are not recommended but natural sources can be used as advised. 
  • Check and keep your Vitamin D levels at normal.
  • Food safety guidelines to be followed if you have a weakened immune system or while chemotherapy. Wash and clean foods thoroughly during preparation. Do not consume raw and undercooked foods while dining out.
  • A dietitian must prescribe the foods listed above, and anything in excess or insufficient is always risky.
  • Regularly assess your body fat percentage and maintain healthy body fat, muscle, bone mass, and good basal metabolic rate with a reduced waistline. 
  • Limit alcohol consumption and quit smoking: Research suggests that consuming 3-4 standard drinks or more per week is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer recurrence, particularly among postmenopausal and overweight/obese women, which causes specific epigenetic changes and interacts with medications.
  • Add adequate fluids at least 1.5 – 2lt of water daily and if you feel nauseated drink ginger ale or chilled fluids.
  • Physical activity reduces the risk of breast cancer hence exercise regularly

Authored by -  Ms. Edwina Raj, Senior Dietitian, Aster CMI Hospital


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